Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Helluva 2015

2015 is gone. It's over. Literally done.

Like you, I'm like, stunned at how it seems that as I get older the years seem to fly by faster and faster, and how in a matter of blinks I will be writing this same line about 2016. Nuts.

Well, with that said, I never like to leave a year unreflected upon. I've managed to avoid death for another 52 weeks straight, so that calls for some voiced gratitude and shout-outs to the things that molded me the most in 2015. In no particular order, here's a glimpse of what didn't kill me over the past year:

1) Job change. 
In April of this past year I took a position as a bar manager at 8UP Elevated Drinkery & Kitchen. It's a rooftop bar located on top of the Hilton Garden Inn and smack dab in the heart of downtown Louisville. Before I took a position here I had frequented this spot knowing it was going to be one of the most popular spots in town. It indeed became just that as it was voted Best New Restaurant in Louisville. Currently, the ol' 'Ville does not have another rooftop bar, so 8UP was filling that longing for apparently everyone. From the patio bar, one can enjoy an amazing dinner under a red/purple/pink sunset and soft glow of the skyline resting only blocks away. Add the amber lighting from our firepit tables with a soft breeze and you have yourself a patio full of complete strangers getting engaged. No seriously. It's basically perfect for proposals and photo shoots and music videos and bands and reality tv shows and movies and everything else that tried to use our space for its aesthetic gold. The most common response from our guests was (and still is), "This place transports you and makes Louisville feel like New York or Chicago or L.A." Yep. I said the same as a patron myself before I came on board as a manager, and I still do. I'm essentially the bar's floor/service manager who ensures guests have a quality experience. I'm in charge of leading, developing, and equipping our team to embody hospitality that is coupled with an appreciation for all things craft--cocktails, beer, food, wine, etc. It's fun. I love it. I work with a management team who I'm constantly sharpened by and I'm in a role within a very successful hospitality company (Concentrics Hospitality) that is itself expanding into all regions of the country. Hospitality, it appears, is my thing. I feel like I've become good at it. You know you've maybe found your niche when you find yourself buying books in a certain genre faster than you can read them. All in all, my role at 8UP is likely the first major milestone for me in my career in the restaurant/hospitality industry. My other management roles seem to have made me ready for this. Everything fits. I have that driven sense that I'm not good enough, but in a motivating way. I've found something that makes me competitive. I want to be the best at this. I want to be better than you as a manager. I will be better than you. :) Better get on those books. This job change was crucial to my year in 2015.

2) Tattoos.
Yeah, I did some more ink. Sorry mum. This time I added to the yellow roses I got stitched on my inner bicep in 2014. I plan on doing an entire post on my tatt once it's completed sometime early next year. In short, I'm going for a half-sleeve of vividly colored Texas and Kentucky wildflowers that are growing together in . The Bluebonnets (TX state flower), Indian blankets, Indian Paint Brushes, Blue Bells, and Black-Eyed Susans grow in wild fashion next to Goldenrods (KY state flower), asters (September flower, which is my birth month but also grow plentiful in KY), blue grass, and grains for whiskey (corn, rye, barely, and wheat). I'm scheduled next week to add more Texasy stuff like cactus and sage flowers. Then, at some point a few months later, color. My arm is going to look amazing! I can't wait. Well, I can actually because it hurts like hell...icopters crashing on your arm with their sharp tattooy blades. But, I'll post a more full "What Does Your Tattoo Mean?" That explains and showcases everything. But, yes, 2015 involved permanent markers. The kind that make you cry. And bleed. But the kind that leave a story to tell about who you are as a person. I'm from Texas and that means a lot, but much of who I am has been also shaped by the good ol' Bluegrass State. I'm thankful to have called these two great states home, so I bought them both a permanent bouquet of flowers. To be continued...

3) Lost love.
Yes, I took another swing at love and struck out. Not sure why I can't get my shit together, but being yet again the common denominator in my relationship failures makes for quite an exhausted heart. We were both good people with good hearts, but after almost a year and a half of off-and-on, it just didn't work out. I learned a great deal about my tendencies in relationships regarding jealousy, passive-aggressive control, how social media can easily become a huge source of ridiculous, even deal-breaking conflict (mostly by inflaming jealousy and how it redefines flirtation), and why comparing your relationship to other relationships is utterly toxic. It's hard to not drift into cynicism, especially in this Tinder woven hook-up shithole we now call modern-dating. It's easy to think all "love" is relative to your situation and that relationships are ultimately a waste of time. The struggle is real when it comes to believing the only reason you're currently with someone in a relationship is 1) because your partner couldn't land who they really wanted to be with before you, whether an ex, a fling that fizzled out, or a previous crush--which is also made evident by their seemingly unquenchable desire to flirt or spend intimate time with them; 2) they are using you to get over someone else and/or still longing for the one that got away; 3) your partner hasn't yet realized via discontentment they can do better (whether true or not); and 4) it's just a matter of time before love becomes conditional, usually due to conflict or mundaneness, and the dark, selfish clouds of, "I don't deserve this," begin to conceal an otherwise beautiful blue sky of, "I don't deserve the gift of you," unconditional love. Happily ever after cannot be your goal. Sacrificial, unconditional love for another person despite their flaws is what makes a relationship truly fulfilling--but it's hard af to do that! Yet, you grow closest to those you work through conflict with, right? It's true, actually. 

Side note: compatibility also is an important thing, but it can be overplayed as an excuse to get in or out of a relationship. Rarely do folks think of compatibility as something that you selflessly build within a relationship as you set your own preferences aside; rather, the more common (and ultimately flawed) approach is simply expecting your person to naturally love all the things you do and toying with the idea of finding someone more compatible if discovered otherwise. 

Another side note: For three relationships in a row, I've watched "friendships" that my girlfriends had blossom into post-break up relationships. Can anyone explain this without using the term "jealousy?" In case any of you readers know my exes, I'm not seeking to throw them under any kind of bus. I will not use their names. They are all great women who are incredibly gifted, thoughtful, fun, and I learned some wonderful things from being with them. I will not shy away from the fact that I hurt these women by being a jerk, which more times than not, led them to hurt me in response. Women will hurt you, no doubt. But, it's usually because as a man you've failed to care, lead, or pursue in the right ways. So, with that said, know that I've been known to be a jealous boyfriend, whatever that means. Essentially, in all three of my last relationships there have been guy friendships that my girlfriends at the time had or initiated that seemed, well, a little too friendly. One girl had a ex boyfriend that she was super close to. Bad news, all day. She would literally light up when he came in the room. In a room of crowded people I would always find them together talking, laughing, and appearing a little too connected still. When I voiced a, "So, your friendship with your ex makes me uncomfortable," it was met with, "Why don't you trust me?" I would end up apologizing and labeling myself as jealous. I believed her when she said he was just a friend and that they were done. They weren't done. Two weeks after we broke up they started dating again and eventually...married each other. Yet, I was "jealous" of their friendship and what seemed like a cultivation of more than just a friendship. It's easy to spot two people who have feelings for or interest in one another, but if you don't play your cards right you'll get labeled as controlling. Your best bet is to sit back and "trust" that their flirtation doesn't accomplish what flirtation is designed to accomplish. Another example included someone who I allowed to lead me on. We had actually broken up, but she continued post-break up to communicate feelings and express her desire to be with me. I assumed the best and my feelings convinced me to be patient and wait on her to figure out how to finally be in a place to move forward. We spent a meaningful, affectionate evening together on a snowy December night and it appeared resolution was right around the corner. Everything was perfect, except a new guy she met that mysteriously had her number and was texting on the reg. I played my cards safe only to have communication shut down all of a sudden. Within two weeks guess who's in a relationship. In about 3 months, guess who's engaged. (Update as of July 2016: they're married now). Before they were official, I saw them out in public together and it was pretty obvious that he was more than just a friend. Once again, I become "jealous" and voice concern only to be met with, "He's just a guy I met." Gotcha. Finally, one girl befriended a guy in class. In this instance he had a girlfriend, so surely it's safe, right? To my amazement I got the, "He's just my classmate. He's like a brother, " as if I'll just believe anything. Like a brother, huh? You've got to be kidding. Oh I'm sure he'd LYLAS if y'all were ever alone together. She lit up every time she saw him, and I could hear interest in her voice when she would talk about him in class. But he had a girlfriend, yet again, I'm just jealous. Welp, we broke up for two weeks, and guess what, her "brotherly" classmate ends up breaking things off with his girlfriend only to go home with my ex. Then, once their fling runs its course, he gets back with his girlfriend. Comedy. Guess what I was labeled: jealous. So, all this to say, I think the term "perceptive" is more appropriate than "jealous." No one likes to be naive. No one likes to be played. But it becomes quite obvious that you weren't really jealous during your relationship when all it takes is a break up and two weeks before that flirty friendship is revealed as having substance. It's the worst feeling ever. 

I know that was super Debbie Downer of me, but coming from someone who has been on the receiving end of divorce, I fight hard against believing that this side of Heaven relationships begin simply to end. It seems like so many (including me at times) are infected with the tragic notion that the end goal is the actual wedding day, not the marriage life. Engagement pics and the accomplanying "likes" along with finding a clever wedding hashtag will not sustain two people who, say, going into their second or third year of marriage realize they both married a selfish child--but none of that matters as long as the relationship is photogenic and likeable enough on social media to look like everything is great. With us (myself included) being so fickle in this life, relationships are filled with games, unrealistic/idealistic expectations, and the shallow end-of-the-rainbow search for a soul-mate riding on a unicorn...that also has sick tatts. But, real talk. Love is hard. It's imperfect. Which means for love to work it takes two humble people moving past the shallow & believing whole heartedly that they themselves are the self-centered one. The biggest challenge in any relationship is a daily willingness to recognize, acknowledge, own, and ask for forgiveness for being a jerk even in the smallest ways. A quick, genuine, no-strings attached, "I'm really sorry for treating you that way. I fully own it and I hate hurting you. I'm so sorry," is everything. Instead, a lot of times when people get hurt the walls go up and the games begin; and don't even think for a second it's natural (or pleasant) for anyone during a conflict to consider maybe how they have contributed, even in the slightest way. It always takes two to tango, and for any conflict resolution to occur it requires each tangoer having the maturity to own where their steps were off, even in an instance where one has "worse" steps than the other. If that doesn't happen, distance sets in, even if it's for a day. Then comparisons of, "Well, so-in-so couple doesn't fight this way or have this problem. I wish I had what they have."  Blah, blah, blah... I've ranted long enough abou this. You can probably tell 2015 was a year that love affected me, both for good and ill. My belief in lasting relationships is still in tact, but my walls are higher and thicker than ever at this point, which is largely my own fault. Still, I have very little time for the flightly games and anything that doesn't involve good communication from the get go. I now have the harsh tendency to immediately write off anyone who I think is playing games, even in the slightest. Zero tolerance. Let's not waste each other's time. If I perceive I'm being flaked on, I'm completely done with you. No second chances. Sorry, but not really. Whoa, I should stop. I basically became Adele for a second, and for that you're welcome.

4) New York. 
I made NY happen to celebrate my birthday. It was on my bucket list last year, but 2015 was the year. My roommate and I left at 3am Friday morning and arrived in the concrete jungle (yes, blaring Alicia Keys and Jay-Z on repeat) at 3pm. The drive sucked, but once we got there we managed to fit a week's worth of eating, drinking, and Citi-biking into four days. Since it was my first time, we did the typical touristy stuff: topped the Empire State Building, "donated" way too much to explore the MoMa, hit Times Square, almost saw Beyoncé at Central Park, did Rockefeller Plaza, took an intense stroll through the 9/11 Memorial, and straight crushed an entire dozen Magnolia cupcakes like it was a Lazy Sunday. Beyond that we hit up some of the world's most amazing bars. Death and Co. was by far my favorite, followed closely by Employees Only. In total, our first night we hit six bars and about half way they, you know, hit us like a stack of New York Times chucked by a smudgy faced paperboy. But we were on a roll, or not, actually. I still have lots of stories to tell from that extravagant weekend. We decided to go on the weekend the Pope and President Obama were in town, so the city was additionally un-sleepy. We saw David Duchovny (X-Files; Californication) walk right in front of us. I was intimidated and inspired by The Big Apple. It sure is just that: big. Yet, it's a really sophisticated place. Like my boi Jay-Z says, "If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere." I can see that. There's literally something big happening at all hours of the day and night in NY, from celebrity appearances to block-wide street festivals to Beyoncé being drunk in love. I think I'd have a hard time living there unless I had a really, really solid reason for doing so, but I will certainly return with a whole new exploration list as the butcher slicing my pastrami at Katz deli predicted, "First time in the City? You'll be back. They always come back." A special shout-out goes to Citi-bike. Baby girl, you muh ride or in I pedaled your chains all weekend almost to the point of death. 

5) Faith.
Religion as of late. 2015 marked the year when I officially started sucking at going to church. I've lived in Louisville for a little over 9 years and have been actively involved in my home church, Sojourn Community, for 8 of those years. From hosting small groups to service projects, I was up to something weekly--until April-ish when I started working at 8UP. I'm not one to take missing church lightly. True confession, I've been known for harboring a tinge of brotherly judgment towards other Christians who make weak excuses for not attending church regularly. I never bought the "too busy" approach because people will always make time for what's most important to them, whether sleep, partying, love, or corporate worship. Then I took a new job that pretty much ruled me out for regular attendance at Sojourn. To be honest, it's a mixture of being exhausted on Sunday morning to working every Sunday night to taking sleep seriously (I've learned I definitely need 8-9 hours, at least, to prevent migraines.). I now resonate a little better with those who are like, "Yeah, my job really keeps me out of regular attendance." I get it now. However, I'm mindful of every Sunday I miss. Every Sunday. It's not out of guilt either. I'm not sleeping through my alarm on Sunday mornings thinking, "God is really about to punish me for missing church." No, the fact that missing corporate worship weighs heavy on my heart is because I legitimately love Christ and I miss the fellowship of His people. Plain and simple. As contradictory as my currently lifestyle might seem, I hate missing church because I hate the idea of drifting away from intimacy with the Lord, which I unquestionably have. To be fair, again, people will do what is most important to them. If I really wanted to attend church regularly I would. I'm not one to shy away from the reality that I also might be in a "season" (I've grown to hate that word) where I'm wondering what is next for me overall in life. I know church is not about attendance. I realize one doesn't get bored with church, but bored with God. Though I woudn't say I've reached that silly stage of "I love Jesus but hate the church," but there does come a point where one does wonder about the fruitfulness of one's participation within the Body. I realize that statement, too, can be a smoke-screen to cover up a "life of sin" I want to live, but I don't think it's that simple. I've served in every possible way in my church without being raised up as a pastor--service projects, served communion, travelled on international trips, led morning hospitality, led small groups, hosted small groups, attended counseling, led community outreach, and have simply made myself available for anything really. I do not think of my past service as a check-list for merit, but as a offering to the body for growth and edification. At this point, I'm simply wondering what's next. I know the Lord is faithful, even when I'm faithless. I can only rest in His grace and trust that He'll provide what's next when it's time. Those of you reading this can shoot up a prayer for ya boi in the meantime. Soli Deo Gloria.

6) In Conclusion:
The rapture didn't happen. The dress was unquestionably blue. Kendrick is still my go-to. Kim Davis poorly represented those who have a different Christian approach to the issue of same sex marriage. Amy Poehler's Yes Please was my fav read this year. I still have yet to bump into Jennifer Lawrence in Louisville. And my beautiful mother is still alive. I love that woman and hope she has many more 20teens to come.

That's it. Fingers tired. Let's get that bubbly ready for 2016.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

New Toys That Pair with Coffee.

I chalk* my lack of blogging up to the weak excuse of not having a reliable, trusty, or at least non-virus laden laptop on which to opine useless things. Well, with the help of really cool toys like iPads and Magic Keyboards, voilà! I bought both simply because it was time to do so...and because as an only child I'm irreparably selfish, so, borrowing is out of the question. 

I'm breaking the blogging fast with this milestone announcement of my acquisition of these new toys, but also bc I miss writing. I have found my mind to be a step slower when I'm not actively reading or writing; digging and displaying; showing and telling, if you will. 

At any rate, here's a new post on an old blog and it's really good to say that.

Talk soon.

*What does "chalk" things "up to" even mean? Am I even saying that right? What if it's like I've sung the lyrics to a song wrong the whole time, like people do. For those of you old enough to remember the M.C. Hammer club banger "Too Legit To Quit," I had a friend who once understood the chorus as "Do The Jet To Quit." The jet. How does one even do a jet-like dance? In a club? In a way that successfully attracts the opposite sex? Does it involve some take-off move, then a predictable extension of the arms for wings, then a screeching halt landing on an air-craft carrier (or friend who also misunderstands the lyric) maybe? For our entertainment purposes, we left her unaware of her error, which likely has likely kept her single and seen in clubs or at weddings doing "the jet." I "chalk" this up to our youthful cruelty, if I'm even saying it right. If I'm not, you'd tell me, right? I'm too lazy to look it up. Cheers! :)